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Some of the opposition-ruled states have declared they will not implement the changes in the Citizenship Act. Kerala, Punjab, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh have claimed they will block implementation of the CAA in their states. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister has also indicated that his government is against the law. Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government will take a decision on the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act only after the Supreme Court hears a bunch of petitions challenging the legislation. On the other hand Defence minister Rajnath Singh said the threat by some states not to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a challenge to India’s federal structure as the legislation has been passed by Parliament and is binding on all states after the presidential assent.

Tussle between centre and state over citizenship:

  • As a growing number of state governments refuse to implement the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act on the grounds that it is an attempt by the ruling BJP to strip the country of its secular credentials, the Centre has pointed out they do not have a choice in the matter as the matter of citizenship comes under the union list.
  • The official pointed out that in the seventh schedule of the Constitution, there are three lists. While the states have a say on matters in the state and concurrent lists, any legislation passed by the Parliament on a subject in the union list will have to be implemented throughout the country.
  • Defence, External Affairs, Railways, Naturalisation and Citizenship are some of the subjects in the union list, which has 97 items.
  • While Bengal CM had voiced her opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill even before it was passed by the Parliament, her counterparts in Kerala and Punjab said they will not allow the law be implemented in their state.
  • The controversial bill, which for the first time offers a legal route to gain Indian citizenship on the basis of religion, had received the presidential nod and came into force with immediate effect.
  • Terming the bill as an attack on the secular and democratic character of India, Kerala Chief Minister said that his state has no place for such an “unconstitutional” law.
  • The law makes it easier for non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to obtain Indian citizenship. It has been accused by rights groups and opposition parties of being discriminatory and violating the constitutional right to equality.
  • The President’s assent for it was given despite massive protests in the northeast, particularly Assam, which has prompted the governments there to impose curfew in several towns and cities and call in the army to control the situation.
  • Punjab CM said it will block the “unconstitutional” bill from being implemented in the state.
  • Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh governments have also indicated that they would not implement the lawSources in the MP government said the states are aware of the constitutional position, but argued that the role of the state can’t be negated completely. “Civil disobedience is a tool available to us,” an official said.

Why legislation passed by the parliament binding on all states?

  • As far the federal structure is concerned, we should be clear about its primary definition as per Indian context of federal structure.
  • There are debated whether our constitution is quasi federal, federal or largely unitary and partly federal.
  • For all practical purposes, we will have to take a look at chapter 5,6 and 11.
  • Chapter 5 deals with the union.
  • Chapter 6 deals with states.
  • Chapter 11 deals with relation between union and the states.
  • If we put all this together one thing the constitution tries to do is to divide the territory between union and states and some portion where there is an overlap, it leads to concept of 3 lists.
  • Supervisory aspects of that of the state subjects items lies with centre only.
  • It could have over-riding powers too in certain circumstances.
  • It is possible to get the state under President’s rule when the state chooses to violate the constitution and that effectively describes the hierarchy between union and the states.
  • GOI 1935 act which said Indian is federation of state, in the constitution it says union of states.
  • The issue of question i.e citizenship, the union legislature rules here.
  • Anyone who chooses to violate the central legislature with respect to citizenship will effectively invite certain mechanisms which results in imposition of President’s rule in violation of the constitution.
  • It goes beyond law and order, it is the question of integrity, sovereignty, so if union is not able to impose it s will over the states on the fundamental topic of citizenship, it is the violation of constitution.

Why are the opposition ruled states threatening not to implement the act?

  • Although the bill is passed by the parliament, the states argue that pre-consultation was not done by the government.
  • They have not taken the consensus of the states.

What are the rights of the states in the federal structure?

  • This would fall essentially into the legislature part and some part in the executive.
  • Citizenship falls in the union list (item 170).
  • The states have to implement it or else it is breakdown of constitutional mechanism.
  • The states politically may only delay the enactment on the order saying law and order on the ground is not permitting implementation.
  • The states do not have say to implement the act enacted by the parliament.

Constitution says about citizenship:

  • It fully falls within the purview of the union and states just have to implement it.
  • It is the centre who gives the citizenship and not the states.
  • States do not have much role except to identify the beneficiaries.
  • NRC falls within the domain of Foreigner Act and citizenship between article 5 to 11 and Citizenship Act.
  • Various committees have said there should be a cordial relation between centre and states.
  • Nothing should be implemented forcibly.

Way Forward:

  • Constitution is supreme and everybody is bound to it.
  • The real problem is mis-information about CAA and NRC. The government should conduct seminars should spread the real intant of the bill.
  • Call for National Advisory Council and discuss with all CM’s and take them under consideration.
  • Lots of misgivings should be done away with the government.